The Flying Tomatoes of La Tomatina

Crowd covered in red tomatoes during the La Tomatina festival in Spain
Around the world, huge festivals attract tens of thousands of people because everyone likes a good party. More importantly, everyone likes a party with a good food fight, which is why everyone descends on Bunol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August. Each year around 30,000 people come to the city to take part in La Tomatina, a large, crazy, and very messy one-hour tomato fight that leaves all its participants and the city itself covered in a thick layer of tomato.

La Tomatina originated as a local food fight among friends in 1945. They enjoyed it so much that they repeated it the next year and the year after. The holiday was banned in 1955, but after Franco’s death in the 1970s, the holiday returned once more. Since the 1990s, the festival has grown each year as more and more people come to participate in the world’s largest food fight, and every year the city council happily provides the tomatoes that are thrown at the event.

Starting early in the morning, people wearing clothes never to be worn again crowd trains heading from Valencia to Bunol. They get there and join the other masses heading to the center, stopping for some food and a lot of drinks along the way. Eventually, everyone reaches the city center and simply stops. There’s nowhere else to go. The crowd is simply too thick. During the run-up to the 11am kick-off, many participants climb the greased pole to get a ham. When the ham is caught, the party starts, though I didn’t see anyone get the ham. They seem to start at 11 regardless. While waiting for that crucial hour, people drink, pour water on each other, and break out into the occasional tee-shirt fight.

Then the gun goes off, the fight begins, and the tomatoes pour out of trucks. But only video will give testament to the craziness. So while I was fighting, my friends at Travelyourself took my camera so I could bring you this:

There’s nothing I can say about the festival that the video doesn’t show better.

The fight lasts for one hour, after which the city is ankle-deep in a river of tomato juice. The party continues for a few hours in many of the plazas around the city before most crowds head back to Valencia to shower, siesta, and relax.

La Tomatina was certainly the most interesting food fight I’ve been to. It’s quite dirty, and if you don’t like a mess or crowds, you wouldn’t like this. I had an amazing, energetic time, and that week I was there connected me with some of the most important people in my life. So for those looking to spend a few hours throwing food at each other, dancing in the streets, and drinking sangria at 10am, well, you better be at La Tomatina next year.

Want more information on getting there and seeing Spain? Visit my guide to backpacking Europe and my guide to Spain to start planning your trip today.

  1. This is certainly up there on the “to-do before I die” list, nice, looks like great fun! I think I’d turn up with a super soaker loaded with 10 litres of cheap watery tomato ketchup for ammo *evil grin like that guy on doom 1 when he picks up a weapon*

  2. Ha ha ha! Totally f*ckin crazy! And I soooo Looooove it! What a noise, what a mess….*giggles*

    If it weren’t so crowded, I hate that kind of crowds, I’d definitely book for next year already….

  3. Andrew

    Ha! That is absolutely insane and awesome!

    I prefer to eat my tomatoes, but that is definitely one hell of a scene.

    Safe travels,


  4. Jesse F.

    That was certainly one crazy day. Tomatoes and sangria for the lot. Thanks for hooking up this vid again! Good luck in your future travels sir.

  5. Does this match running the bulls at Pamplona for the ultimate Boy’s own experience in Spain. I think I’ll aspire to walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela for my dream trip rather than one big tomato fight.

  6. Great Post. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I attended Tomatina during my honeymoon (yes, I know it’s not very romantic) in 2005 and it was a blast. Its not something I need to do every year; I had a minor allergic reaction to the tomatoes, but it was worth it. It was a crazy event I will never forget – I definitely recommend it!

  7. Mattverine


    No cravings for salsa though, just some sort of sensitive wipes for the eyes.

    Advice for people wishing to attend:-

    Take nothing that you value down to the streets where it’s “goin’ down”
    Put your money and cigarettes / lighters into waterproof zip lock bags
    Flip flops are dangerous
    Expect to lose your t-shirt / vest or have it torn off
    Prepare yourself to go without a lavatory for up to 4 hours
    Have water on standby
    some advise wearing goggles, but these will almost certailnly become dislodged or removed during the battle.

    These are the things I would have like to have known pre-event, so I’m passing it on now.


  8. kristina

    it was an experience. There is definately a chance of dying at this festival. you are crushed by thousands of people. with no escape. Be warned of the danger, if you ever fell at this festival you would be crushed to death and I am hapy to have got out alive. There are many more people than tomatoes.

    • This is exactly what kept me away from this festival – a fear of being crushed and stampeded on. Even though I absolutely adore Spanish festivities, this one, along with bull runs, is definitely not for the faint of heart.

  9. I can’t wait for La Tomatina! I’m going with Stoke Travel and have scored free unlimited beer and sangria by booking with the promo code SHARKWEEK!

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